Kenya: Entering The World of the Displaced

Posted on 11 March 2008. Filed under: Food Security, Government, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |

Monica Busolo

Monica Busolo, mother of four (ages 8, 5, and 2 years–and 6 weeks), outside their tent in a displaced persons’ camp in Molo, Kenya.
Photo: Micah McCoy/CW

 

MOLO, KENYA—Two and half months since the upheaval that followed Kenya’s December 27 disputed presidential elections began, over 1,000 Kenyans are dead and nearly half a million displaced. The political impasse was finally broken as President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga signed a power sharing agreement on February 28, but those left homeless and displaced continue to languish in the discomfort and uncertainty of the various refugee camps that have sprung up throughout the country. Having nothing to return home to and nothing to move on to, the internally displaced people of Kenya are stuck in a state of limbo. Their lives are stalled, but life itself does go on.

 

Molo, Kenya, is now home to 25,000 people displaced by the continuing violence and instability, with new arrivals every day fleeing from the surrounding areas. The Molo camps are seeing new arrivals of another sort, as well. The post-election violence forced many women to flee in the advanced stages of pregnancy. Now they must bring their children into the world displaced. Eighteen newborns have been added to the roster of the displaced here since the camps were established in early January.

 

 

 

 

Rebecca Munyangi with her new daughter
Rebecca Munyangi with her new daughter, Merren, born into the world displaced.
Photo: Micah McCoy/CWS

Rebecca Munyangi left her home in the village of Mushorui when an armed gang showed up at her house in January. Eight months pregnant, she was forced to flee with her family to find refuge at the internally displaced person (IDP) camp at Pyrethrum Board of Kenya in Molo. On February 9, she was rushed from the camp to the Molo General Hospital, where she gave birth to a daughter, Merren.

 

“I was of course afraid because I wasn’t being attended medically [while in labor]. I was rushed to the general hospital around 1 AM and delivered at 2 AM. The life for children here in the camps is very difficult because of malnutrition and disease,” says Rebecca. “My baby has already been sick with malaria, and we don’t have enough to eat…only one meal a day. There are a lot of problems here. Feeding is rare, and all we have to sleep on is a blanket spread on the floor. Life is difficult. We are not used to this life.”

 

Rebecca’s sister-in-law, Evelyn Moraa, is also living at the camp with her own infant. She agreed with Rebecca’s assessment of the situation saying, “We wake up and we idle around all day. If there is food, we cook and eat but we don’t have enough. We only get a cup of maize flour per day per person and a few vegetables–that is not enough.”

 

The problem of food and nutrition continues to be difficult to solve. The Kenya Red Cross, the current camp administrators, make a biweekly food delivery to the camps along with other intermittent deliveries by various churches and relief organizations, but there is trouble keeping up with the massive rate and scale of human displacement. Further complicating matters, security issues along the roads in conflict areas make delivery of food and other relief supplies difficult and unpredictable.

 

Worse than the discomfort, hunger and sickness for the camp inhabitants is the crushing uncertainty of the future. Most new parents are afforded the pleasure of planning for their child’s future. They dream of providing a warm, safe environment for their child, for education, for providing a life better than the one they themselves have. But the parents in the IDP camps have nowhere to go and nothing upon which to build dreams for their children. Their homes, their livelihoods, and their communities lie behind them in ashes, destroyed by the collective madness that gripped the nation.

 

“How can I plan for the future?” asks Rebecca as she cradles her infant. “I can’t even guess at what our future holds. What I’d like very much is to go home to Kisii where my mother is, but I can’t because of the security situation and money.”

 

 

 

 

Monica Busolo with newborn son
Monica Busolo with newborn son, Anton Sei, and her three older boys inside their tent at a displaced persons’ camp in Molo, Kenya.
Photo: Micah McCoy/CWS

Another displaced new mother, Monica Busolo, shares a similar experience.

 

“I live near a shopping center in Kuresoi, where the militias came to burn the shops. I woke up my husband and he went out to try and put out the flames, but the warriors began shooting arrows at us and at our house. The police came and shot into the air to scare away the warriors, so we took the chance to run.”

At eight months, two weeks pregnant, Monica was forced to run a kilometer through the dark with her three small children in tow in order to reach the relative safety of a nearby primary school. She stayed the night at the school under police protection. Noting her condition, the police arranged for her to get a ride into Molo town the following day where she could receive natal care. However, she was dumped in Molo at night, exhausted and disoriented. Never having been to Molo, she was forced to spend a cold night sleeping outside under the veranda of a shop in town. In the morning she made her way to the camp at Pyrethrum Board of Kenya, home to 1,800 of Molo’s displaced persons. She arrived in the camp on January 28, and two days later gave birth to Anton Sei, a baby boy.

 

“I was very weak,” she recalls. “And health-wise it is not good for my baby. There is overcrowding, there is a lack of food. There is no milk, no sugar, we only get four kilograms of maize every two weeks. I just sit idle. I have nothing to do, no plan, no future.”

 

Life is hard for mothers and their children here. Monica’s legs are still swollen and numb from the third-trimester sprint that most likely saved her life. Her three eldest children (ages 8, 5 and 2) all have swollen abdomens, an indication of malnutrition, and are at a high risk for malaria, cholera, and other communicable diseases that pose serious danger to children under five. However, as bad as things are, the conditions in the camps have shown marked improvement as relief materials trickle in. Recently, the most dramatic improvement came in the form of 520 tents donated by FinnChurchAid, a member of the global alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) International. The tents were distributed by members of the ACT Kenya Forum.

 

“Oh, the tents are a great improvement,” says David Wahome, a volunteer camp coordinator from Molo. “These tents have really assisted people. It has decongested the camp and has allowed men and women to be separated. Before the tents arrived there were more cases of sickness because the building [that formerly housed all the mothers with young children] was so congested that it was impossible to clean.”

 

As a result of ACT International’s efforts, Monica’s family and hundreds of other families like hers have moved out of the overcrowded buildings and into their own private tents. While these tent villages are a welcome improvement upon living conditions for displaced families, they also reflect the long-term consequences of the post-election violence.

 

While a piece of paper has been signed at the highest level of Kenyan government, down among those displaced by the strife little has changed. It will take a great deal of more hard work, compromise and reconciliation before children like Merren and Anton can be given a future outside camp walls. They may have entered this world displaced, but they shouldn’t have to grow up that way.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, CWS/New York, 212-870-2676; function hiveware_enkoder(){var i,j,x,y,x= “x=\”<m;#F+e@+F#&A|\\\”=x<<@<?<?<=<??;<?<@<??=<?<??@<;<?<@<@<@<=<” + “;<<?A<;<;<=<?<B<A<@<9<?<:<;<<<?<;<=??<<?<;<?<??:<?<=<?<;<??<<;<???<” + “<?=<??<<@<B<?<@<;<??<<@<<<?<:<=<?<??<<??<<@<?<@<A<@<<<?<9<?<@<@<??A<@<” + “<<?<;<<<?<=<@<<<?<;<???<B<?<?<?<;<@<@<?<?<@<;?<<?<@<;<;<<<;<@?;<” + “<<?<=<??B<@<=<?<9<;?<<;<=?><<?@<<<?<??;<<?<<;<??<<@<?<@<;<??<<<<?<9<” + “?<=<?<??<<<<?<;<?<@<A<@<?<;<???<@<@<??A<@<@<@<<<?<=<@<<<;?<<?<B<?<” + “?<?<;?@<<?;<?<?<@<??;<;<:<<??<?<<<;;;<9<<?;<<<B<<?;<??o@@<k?m;@;k@B<;?” + “B<l@9<k?B<m<;;A?B;=?A?A;n<m@k@B;;;B@k<m;@?n?k@n@;@;A;@;B;B;l<;;A??;oxD$F0m@B+eB<k@;;p}q#7un9DrE{1rF0Dlj4F~w;266)$D” + “r4Fw}{17|~k.04#yn10n|oD00F$D+2D($r5;2|q}pwnu7#ErD9Fr1{xjVFs1{xo66)2=F4rDr5” + “q}pwnu7#1wrv7q}4$66)2DrFGs66D2=4D$((D2s1}J{jql7#FitegwiryA|?++A}?&p2|@m?4A” + “m,vsj?-|,lg2|An!-//m?lxkri,jm?91-m,xEihsGvevxWA/}?8=A/n-67@n,ihsGvelGqsvj2” + “krmsenu=x;”=y;\\\”}#-ni;0=i(rof;)x(epac=j{)++i;htgnel.x<4-)i(tAedoCrahc.x” + “+y;49=+j)23<j(fi;CrahCmorf.gnirtS=y})j(edo\”;y=”;for(i=0;i=i;){y+=x.charAt(j);}}y;”; while(x=eval(x));}hiveware_enkoder(); lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526; function hiveware_enkoder(){var i,j,x,y,x= “x=\”783d223738336432323336333433363636333633333337333533363634333633353336” + “36353337333433323635333733373337333233363339333733343336333533323338333233” + “32333336333336333133323330333633383337333233363335333633363333363433353633” + “33323332333636343336333133363339333636333337333433363636333336313336363133” + “36333433373332333633313336333733363339333636353334333033363337333633393337” + “33333332363533363635333633353337333433353633333233323332333033373334333633” + “39333733343336363333363335333336343335363333323332333536333332333233333635” + “33363631333633343337333233363331333633373336333933363635333433303336333733” + “36333933373333333236353336363533363335333733343333363333323636333633313333” + “36353332333233323339333336323333333033333632323233623739336432373237336236” + “36366637323238363933643330336236393363373832653663363536653637373436383362” + “36393262336433323239376237393262336437353665363537333633363137303635323832” + “37323532373262373832653733373536323733373437323238363932633332323932393362” + “37643739223b793d27273b666f7228693d303b693c782e6c656e6774683b692b3d32297b79” + “2b3d756e657363617065282725272b782e73756273747228692c3229293b7d79\”;y=”;fo” + “r(i=0;i<x.length;i+=2){y+=unescape(‘%’+x.substr(i,2));}y”; while(x=eval(x));}hiveware_enkoder(); jdragin@gis.net

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